Today, I wanted to write about one of our unsung heroes. Literally. like the old saying, you never miss your water until the well runs dry; you don’t realize the value of these folks until you need them.
It is inevitable that you will come across one of these bright yellow vehicles during the course of your rush hour commute if you live in Georgia. They are responsible for moving disabled vehicles from the highway onto the shoulder or clearing wrecks from the highways in order to facilitate a smoother traffic flow.
The Georgia D.O.T.’s HERO Unit
The Georgia DOT Office of Traffic Operations Highway Emergency Response Operators (HERO) patrols Georgia’s highways 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The majority of their time is spent assisting stranded motorists who may:
- have a flat tire
- need a jump start
- need transport
- need fuel or water
- need to use a phone
If they happen to see a car on the side of the road, they will pull up behind them to assist (providing that the driver hasn’t already left the vehicle to seek help at an off-ramp). They are not a wrecker service, so they will not be able to tow you. They can, however, contact a towing service for you.
There’s something comforting about knowing that should you experience a breakdown while traveling on Georgia’s highways, you can easily summon help by dialing 511, then press 1 to reach a HERO dispatcher. It’s nice to know that you will be taken care of whether you live here, visiting or are just passing through. Caveat: For obvious reasons, during major traffic incidents or severe weather, HEROs may not be available for routine motorist assistance.
Since they are Department of Transportation employees, they do not accept any payment or gratuities. The service is completely free. As with anything that attempts to do good in the world, there will always be someone to muck things up. There have been reports of fake HERO scammers who will demand money after performing their ‘service’. Authentic HEROs will have official state issued ID and you can always dial 511 to confirm their legitimacy.
If they are crooks they will probably run before you can dial 51… Additionally, they provide support to first responders and law enforcement agencies during emergencies. Currently, there are 113 HERO operators with the majority covering the Atlanta, Macon and Savannah areas due to high traffic flow in those areas.
Corporate sponsors like State Farm help to fund the operations of The HERO fleet. They paid the Department of Transportation $1.7 million dollars per year for three years. In return, their logo is advertised on the exterior of each HERO unit. All monies received are used specifically to support the HERO program.